|36 But I say unto you,
That every idle
word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day
One time I thought everyone knew swearing was un-acceptable and
moreover, wrong. I've changed my opinion.
I was in a pastor's office, listening to him and his assistant condemn
my stand that Christians need to deal with sin in fellow believers.
They started out by informing me they refused to open the Bible to look
at the subject. The lecture went on for a couple hours. Near the end,
the pastor's dog started barking at someone outside the church. This
infuriated him. He yelled for someone to shut the dog up and used the
Lord's name in vain in his fury! He appeased the use of foul language
during his talk by saying everyone uses it sometimes, like when you hit
your thumb with a hammer.
My wife was talking with a youth, who happened to be a pastor's son.
She asked him what their church taught about swearing. His response was
surprising. He said that where the Bible talks about cursing, the
cursing is different to swearing. He didn't see the Bible condemn it.
He said he didn't use it, but some of his Christian friends did. She
also encountered a youth who, when told using the Lord's name in vain
carried the death penalty in the Old Testament, he couldn't believe
that was in the Bible.
I've seen many, who call themselves Christians, swear. I thought they
didn't care, but maybe, for some, they're ignorant. Our society's so
corrupt, even Christians are ignorant of what the Bible says, even
preacher's children, who you would expect to know better.
Lets look at the different types of swearing:
Using God's Name In Vain
7 Thou shalt not take the
name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the
Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in
This is one of the Ten Commandments. If you've heard
before, have you wondered why God gave such a command? Look at another
passage, it gives more to ponder:
10 And the son of an
Israelitish woman, whose father was an
Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the
Israelitish woman and the man of Israel strove together in the camp; 11
And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and
cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was
Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) 12 And they put
him in ward, that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them. 13 And the
Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 14 Bring forth him that hath cursed
without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his
head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And thou shalt speak
unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall
bear his sin. 16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall
surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone
him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he
blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.
Why such a command, and even more, why such a severe
penalty? Under our
form of government, we don't view authority in quite the same way one
would under a monarchy. Look at the Persians in the book of Esther. If
you went before the king to make a request without being called, you
risked immediate death:
11 All the king's
servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do
know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king
into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put
him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden
sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto
the king these thirty days.
If you knew the ruler had that kind of power, you
would approach him
with great respect. Appearing before God should be with even greater
fear and trembling. He's so great, He's the creator of all! Just as we
would show respect before a monarch, so we show respect before the
greatest authority of all. All that refers to Him is to be treated with
reverence. To use His name irreverently is to use His name as a vain
usage, just an expression. He is holy, pure and powerful. To use his
name casually is like walking in before the Persian king and saying,
'Hey dude, how's it goin'?' Only the dead did that!
Using Various Religious Expressions
What about other religious expressions: Hallelujah, Praise the Lord,
Lord, Jesus and Holy Cow or Holy Moses?
16 Woe unto you, ye blind
guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by
the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the
temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater,
the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever
shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the
gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether
is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso
therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things
thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by
him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth
by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth
This passage says a lot about things referring to God or His holiness.
To not use His title 'God', yet use His title 'Lord' is fingered in
this passage. You're referring to Him. In everything referring to Him,
we have to show reverence. I know people that use 'Hallelujah' as an
expression, but aren't really praising the Lord when they say it. This
is using His name in vain. 'Hallelujah' means 'praise the Lord', using
an abbreviated form of His name revealed to Moses. I've seen people
making fun of those who praise the Lord in churches shouting
'Hallelujah'. If we're not truly praising Him or talking about the word
when we use it, we're using His name in vain. People often say 'Thank
God', yet aren't really giving Him thanks. This is also a vain usage.
An orator in Hyde Park of London was speaking against religion. He
said, 'My hatred of religion is honestly come by; my grandfather was an
atheist; my father was an atheist; and, thank God, I'm an atheist,
too.' What clearer example of praise in vanity could you find?
I remember watching a Christmas special on a 'Christian' TV station. I
didn't watch long. The host used the Lord's name in vain. Many
preachers use His name in vain. I think because they're always talking
about Him, they don't stop to think about whether or not what they're
saying is necessarily about Him.
Jesus is God, and to use
His name as an expression is to use God's name
Expressions such as 'Holy Cow' or 'Holy Moses' fall in the same class
as in Matthew 23:16-22 . Think about it. Why do men use religious items
for meaningless expressions? Moses is a holy servant of God and should
be held in respect and honor. His sister and brother complained about
him and God smote his sister with leprosy for it (Numbers 12:1-15).
Crass over-familiarization with God and the things of God are an
The term 'Holy Cow' and 'By Jove' comes under the classification of
referring to pagan gods. When you think of a holy cow, you have either
of two references: the cow the Israelites made when Moses was receiving
the ten commandments, or the cows that Jeroboam made to cause Israel to
sin in idolatry. 'By Jove' refers to swearing by the Roman god
'Jupiter'. Sometimes, in fact, the expression is 'By Jupiter' instead
of 'By Jove'.
13 And in all things that
I have said unto you be circumspect: and make
no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of
Considering this verse, it can't be acceptable to
referring to other gods or their consecrated items.
Look at the word 'Shazaam'. That's a word I thought was dead until I
heard an ad on the Christian radio station using it. Did you ever see
the Saturday morning TV show 'Shazaam'? The introduction told how the
character got his powers calling on 'Shazaam', a pagan Greek god. For
that matter, the term 'abracadabra', used for magic shows is the same
thing. 'Abracadabra' is actually an incantation, and I've seen the word
on a list of names of pagan gods. If the word is actually the name of
some pagan deity, then to call that name in the performance of a magic
trick is the same as appealing to a demon for special powers. You may
have done it ignorantly in the past, but now you should know better.
What about our 'lucky stars'. Some people thank them all the time. What
lucky stars? Only the followers of astrology believe in lucky stars and
actually give thanks to them. God is the one who deserves any thanks we
may sincerely offer.
I feel there's an area God overlooks, due to ignorance. Using His name
is truly no account for ignorance, but other expressions have a certain
plausibility. For example: The Leave it to Beaver expressions such as
'Gosh' and 'Gees' were used because they were thought, by the society
of the day, they were clean words. Wicked adults would use God's name
in vain, but forbid children to talk like them. The children would as
closely approximate them as they could, and not use the same words. So
we have 'Gosh' to replace 'God' and 'Gees' to replace 'Jesus'. I saw a
term for those words I thought pretty well fit: 'Minced Oaths'. Oaths
are swearings and minced is mangled. So the swear words were slightly
mangled so children wouldn't exactly be swearing, but still sound like
their parents. God may wink at our ignorance and the action based on
simplicity in trying to watch our language, but God is not mocked in
knowing the origin of such words.
Language of Pagan Religious Origins
Our language is full of perversity that crept in as it developed. For
example: The term for our common word, 'cereal' came from the name of
the Roman god Ceres. Much of our language is based upon pagan
religions. The days of the week demonstrate this: 'Wednesday' from
Woden's day, a Norse god and 'Friday' from Fria's day, another Norse
god, to name a few. If we left out all words of pagan religious
origins, we probably couldn't intelligently communicate in the English
language. The use of such words, for intelligent communication, is
sanctioned in scripture by looking at the book of Daniel. Daniel's
three friends were given names to honor pagan gods by their captors,
and these became the names they used. Read the book of Daniel and
you'll see they refused to do anything forbidden by God, even if it
meant their death (bow to idols, eat forbidden foods), but they didn't
refuse acknowledging their new names.
The lesson's clear. Intelligent communication using our language is
proper, but needless vain expressions of no thought, referring to pagan
gods or things to be held with reverence, is unacceptable.
36 But I say unto you,
That every idle word that men shall speak, they
shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Seeing we have to account for vain expressions, why are we nonchalant
in our speech? Don't we fear God, or don't we believe what Jesus said?
Using the Nasty Words
One of my great grandmothers was a devout Roman Catholic. She lived in
England where the word 'bloody' is always used. It's a swear word. She
was working with some meat and commented on how 'bloody' the meat was.
It dawned on her she'd just used that word referring to the meat's
condition. She hurried to the local parish to the confessional. That's
a case of not thinking a thing out, but it carries a lesson for us.
Sometimes, we hear expressions and think they're cute, so we start
using them. We need to be careful of assumptions. I've come across
people who use the word 'bloody' totally unaware it's a swear word. The
story of my great grandmother gives some proof it is.
Another word, which I won't repeat, is an expression used on a comedy
show called Mork and Mindy. Mork used words for vain expressions that
were supposed to come from his planet. I heard that one of the most
common of his words is actually a Russian word meaning a rather nasty
thing. We need to know what the words mean we choose to use. Don't just
use them because they sound cute.
Looking at the source of our words, let's examine another semi-common
word. The toilet was not always called 'toilet'. It's a device created
by a man named Thomas Crapper. It was originally called 'The Crapper
Device'. From that origin, we see where this older expression comes
from. It refers to defecating. Human tendency is to chose expressions
from either the holy list, showing irreverence, or from the list of
baser activities. How can we be free and clean choosing expressions
that come from either category?
I've heard Christians using initials of curse words thinking it's OK
since they weren't actually saying the words. To refer to them is to
put the words into the hearers minds. It's still saying the swear
Various Biblical Passages
I encountered someone strongly offended by the use of God's name in
vain, but finding nasty words acceptable. I suppose it's like the
pastor's son who didn't think the Bible spoke about swear words beyond
using God's name in vain. Let's look at a number of verses on the
In the following verse, the meaning in regards to nasty words is clear.
What's more, the verse isn't a suggestion, it's a command. It not only
covers what not to say, but what should come from us. This is an
excellent guide. We can ask ourselves if the expression we use does
good or evil to those who hear us. Does it demonstrate expression in
all purity, or does it defile another's ears and mind?
29 Let no corrupt
communication proceed out of your mouth, but that
which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto
The following verse is a killer to arguments like the one a pastor gave
me saying everyone swears now and then. 'Let it not once be named among
you', that's strong. No slip ups allowed for by Paul in this verse.
Paul listed the filthiness, as that which should never, ever by
practiced by Christians, which would include our vocabulary. Foolish
talking would also hit directly at nasty words. This passage tells us
more than what not to do, but guides for discernment. In other words,
can you say the expression you use is compatible with a spirit showing
thanks? And if you say 'Praise the Lord' are you really turning you
heart to Him in praise?
3 But fornication, and
all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be
once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor
foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather
giving of thanks.
I've known people meeting the description in the following verses. It's
obvious from the passage the cursing isn't cursing like 'cursed be he
that removes his neighbor's landmark'. The cursing is swearing as we
hear everywhere today. For those who love such words, this passage has
a sting to it:
17 As he loved cursing,
so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in
blessing, so let it be far from him. 18 As he clothed himself with
cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like
water, and like oil into his bones. 19 Let it be unto him as the
garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded
In James we get into the use of the tongue. It states the use of our
tongue is a dead give away to whether or not we're really Christians:
26 If any man among you
seem to be religious, and bridleth not his
tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is
The wise have good conversation. If the conversation isn't good, what's
that say about us?
8 But the tongue can no
man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly
poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse
we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same
mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought
not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet
water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?
either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and
fresh. 13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let
him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
The righteous purposefully guards their mouths. The tongue isn't left
to mere impulse. As this passage says, it's to be bridled:
1 I said, I will take
heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I
will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before
The following passage says it much like Ephesians. Put away filthy
talk. It looks closer at origins. The filthy talk is the result of the
old man. Being Christians, we've put on a new man and the old should be
history. The description of the new mans enlightening. This character
doesn't allow for the use of nasty words. It shows the condition of
praise should be what's seen.
The last verse of the passage packs a punch. What we use in words
should be what Jesus would use. No one, who isn't being blasphemous of
the Lord's character, could say Jesus would use nasty, base words.
Consider further. If we're born-again, we're representatives of Jesus.
If we use nasty words, we're telling the world Jesus talks like that.
That places us under a lot of responsibility. What's more, to besmirch
His character like that is to literally blaspheme Him. A person who
does that, by what right can he say he's a disciple of Christ? Our
fruit would says otherwise. Now read the passage:
8 But now ye also put off
all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another,
seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put
on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him
that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision
nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is
all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,
longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if
any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also
do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond
of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the
which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the
word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do
in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to
God and the Father by him.
My wife signed our son up for a baseball team. I thought that was
great, until I went to the practice after he complained of the
language. I went and ended pulling my son from the team. We were looked
down on for our stand against swearing. To do the evil wasn't viewed as
bad as to take a stand against the evil. One Christian parent on the
team said she would like to think her child wouldn't swear, but
couldn't help it if he did. Summarizing the thought, 'He hears it at
school and it can't be avoided on TV. It'll have its effects in
acclimatizing us, so it's an unavoidable evil.' Another said, 'We need
to let our children be around those who use such language so they can
be witnesses.' The arguments go back and forth, but the issue boils
down to, 'Do we abhor the evil or just say we do for religious, moral
9b ...Abhor that which is
evil; cleave to that which is
Cursing is to be abhorred. Let's see an example of consistency. If we
watch a movie and there's swearing, do we turn it off, or leave the
theaters? To say we abhor swearing, yet not turn the movie off is
two-faced. We watch movies of our own free wills. We watch for
relaxation. If there's swearing, the Bible tells us such should vex us
(2 Peter 2:6-8; Psalms 101:3). If we abhor something, it nauseates
(vexes) us so we get away from it. If we don't put it far from us, when
it's within our ability to do so, we don't honestly hate it.
Getting back to my son's baseball team, if I don't draw the line
saying, 'swearing won't be tolerated', my son will learn, from my lack
of commitment in battle, 'swearing's a mild irritant, but certainly not
to be abhorred'. If I find swearing's tolerated and don't pull my son,
I'm a hypocrite to my child. I essence I'm saying, 'abhor the
swearing,' but my actions say, 'for a little fun the passion that comes
with abhorrence can be abated'. They would pick up the implied meaning
through my lack of action and wouldn't learn to abhor it themselves.
Gaining Proper Perspective
One problem bringing the seriousness of language abuse to proper
perspective, is the hardness we develop living amidst continual abuse.
Society has become extremely base, as a whole, throughout history. The
Romans during the early church made coliseums for sport. The people
thronged to these sporting events. You know what they saw? Men forced
to fight each other to death. Ships battle each other until one was
totally destroyed. The people watched Christians fed alive to lions.
The coliseums are stained with the blood of who knows how many.
Bringing similar acclimatizing to bear on foul language, picture this:
We're back at the baseball practice. If our society found it appealing
to torture animals, we can envision that if an animal meandered by,
some on the team might fetch it to torture. This goes on several times
during the practice. As a parent, with our present perspective, we
would be appalled. We would pull our children from such a team. What if
it happened, on the average, once per practice? Is that infrequent
enough we would put up with it? I should hope not! Why should even once
per practice be too much? IT'S
ABOMINABLE, that's why! We naturally, at
present, abhor such conduct. As such abuse became more and more
accepted and practiced in our society, we would grow calloused and
eventually tolerate it.
With foul language, we hear it at work, on the street, buying groceries
and (truly God forbid) in our churches. It's around us everywhere. End
result, we no longer 'abhor' it. We justify our callousness saying we
don't use it or appreciate it. We think this is the heart condition God
calls us to have. Such iniquity should bring more grief than that!
We'll go through this world with grief. Lot was vexed continually in
Sodom (2 Peter 2:6-9). He was termed a 'righteous' man. A continual
grief is not an evil thing. In the midst of iniquity, it's a healthy
sign! Remember Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 9:1-6). He saw God command His
servant to go into Jerusalem, marking on the forehead all that mourned
over the evil in the city, that sighed continually because of sin.
After him, the messengers of death followed, slaughtering those who
didn't have this mark. Where do you stand? Our hearts have grown cold.
Call upon God to renew a right spirit within us.
We can't avoid exposure to iniquity. Disciplining the world isn't a
charge God gave us (I Corinthians 5); however, we can seek God's face
to put His heart, His view in us through His Holy Spirit (Psalms
51:10). God's command to us is:
15 But as he which hath
called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner
of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am
I Peter 1:15,16
God said we would be bizarre to the rest of the
14 Who gave himself for
us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity,
and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
God hears more foul language in one day that you'll
hear in your
lifetime, but He still abhors it. Do we? If so, do we care enough to do
something about it? It boils down to whether we really love the Lord.
If we love Him, we'll keep his commandments:
3 And hereby we do know
that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a
liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him
verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in
I John 2:3-5
Do we care about what's pleasing to Him? If swearing
bother us, after hearing what His word has to say, our claim to know
Him has to be as the above passage says - a lie. If this is the case,
call on the Lord to grant you a repentant heart and turn to Him. He can
make you pure. He can enable love for Him to truly be there, and hatred
of all that He hates. You'll be able to say with all purity, 'Praise
the Lord' and mean it.
Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible